Does Elevation Increase Risk for Skin Cancer?

Ecuador_279 Copyright Sam Ogden PhotographyOne of the most common questions asked about skin cancer risk, particularly by those who ski or hike, is whether altitude can increase the chance of developing skin cancer, specifically melanoma. We spoke with Jennifer Lin, MD, a dermatologist in Dana-Farber’s Melanoma Treatment Center, to learn more.

Elevation does affect the risk of skin cancer because the higher the elevation, the more sunlight – including ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer – reaches the ground, Lin says. Technically, the higher you are, the closer you are to the sun, with fewer protective layers of atmosphere above you. Colorado, for instance, has one of the highest melanoma rates in the country, likely due to its elevation.

Ultimately, the UV index – a measure of the strength of ultraviolet radiation from the sun – is the most important number to go by, not elevation. There are handy apps that predict the UV index at a particular place and time of day and year, such as the EPA’s SunWise app.

Being at a low elevation does not necessarily make you any safer, Lin says. Other factors such as where you are by latitude and time of the year will also affect the UV index. Remember, UV is a carcinogen – the less you get of it, the better.

Learn more sun safety tips from Dr. Lin.

Comments Sort By Newest

One thought on “Does Elevation Increase Risk for Skin Cancer?

  1. It was said that being at high altitude gives a higher risk of skin cancer because you are closer to the sun. Two miles closer out of 93 million miles makes no difference. The entire difference is the thinner atmosphere.

  2. It was said that being at high altitude gives a higher risk of skin cancer because you are closer to the sun. Two miles closer out of 93 million miles makes no difference. The entire difference is the thinner atmosphere.

Comments are closed.

Make An Appointment

For adults: 877-960-1562

Quick access: Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

For children: 888-733-4662

All content in these blogs is provided by independent writers and does not represent the opinions or advice of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or its partners.

Latest Tweets

Dana-Farber @danafarber
Dana-Farber clinicians have been involved in the development of several new agents approved recently for B-cell acu… https://t.co/Oo3SiY79EN
Dana-Farber @danafarber
Dana-Farber #researchers have shown that clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP) - the presence of s… https://t.co/ZlmXSeyKfZ
Dana-Farber @danafarber
CRISPR, a powerful new tool for editing the #DNA instruction manual in animals and humans, is proving a boon to… https://t.co/pCzS3riHPS

Republish our posts on your blog

Interested in sharing one of our stories on your blog? Feel free to republish this content! We just ask that you credit Dana-Farber, link to the original article, and refrain from making edits that change the original context. Questions? Email the editors at insight_blog@dfci.harvard.edu.